1. Be Realistic
It’s important to be realistic about what will be right for the family.
Early on, a local family estate offered us an amazing house that they were renovating, and they only wanted to charge the local housing allowance rate.
For a while, we seriously considered saying yes but it was in a very remote location, right in the middle of the estate land, a mile from the main road. In the end we decided it was just too isolated so we had to turn the offer down.
2. Get the word out
When we started looking for a house we just had as many conversations with as many people as possible. Basically, spread the word, never give up, and follow up on any lead.
Even if it comes to nothing as our first offer did, it’s worth having a discussion with the owner because then you’re in their heads and they know you’re looking for a property. In our case, the same family estate later came back to us and offered us a house that was in a far better location, which we were delighted to accept!
More recently, a supporter has told us they want to buy a house to rent to a resettled family at the local housing allowance rate. As this is about £200pm less than the market rate, we didn’t feel we could turn the offer down and so we’ve decided to welcome a second family through Community Sponsorship, who will benefit from this generous benefactor.
3. Sourcing furniture
When we were ready to furnish the house we made a wish list of what we needed and put it out via our mailing list and Facebook. We had some fantastic donations of good quality secondhand furniture.
We had emphasised that we were looking for secondhand items but people also offered money or said they’d like to buy specific items, such as a lawnmower, washing machine, fridge, new blinds etc. Others offered to make curtains, alter the nets, donate wall hangings, buy food, toiletries etc.
Our supporters were so keen to make sure that the house was a ready-made home that we found as a group we hardly dipped into the money we’d raised at all.
4. Personalising the house
There was quite a lot of discussion about how much we should do to get the house ready for the family. We have three women on our team from Arabic-speaking backgrounds, and we very much went with their suggestions (for example small coffee cups for Arabic coffee).
As a group we wanted to make the house welcoming and comfortable to live in, but we also made sure to emphasise straight away to the family that it was their home and they could rearrange it however they liked.
We also made it clear that if they didn’t want some of the furniture or they wanted something different, that was their choice and it was up to them to put their stamp on the house and tell us how they wanted to change things.
5. Support family to make changes
We made it clear that we would support the family to make changes, and that we would help them to do this in a way that was manageable on their budget.
When the family moved in, the house had new laminate flooring with a small rug that didn’t reach the edges of the room. The family found wooden floors cold and unfamiliar, especially as the family had a crawling baby. We said that we would help as much as possible to improve it in the way that they wanted, but we couldn’t justify spending money getting the laminate floors fully carpeted.
In the end, we helped the family to source a large offcut of new carpet on Facebook Marketplace which they then laid and taped the edges themselves, with the result that they effectively have wall to wall carpeting now at very little cost.